The 5 Best Medical Dictionaries

Whether you are a nursing student, nurse, or medical student: People within the medical field must rely on medical dictionaries. You need one even as a fully-trained medical doctor who has been practicing for years. No matter how well-trained you are, you can never know everything. Moreover, the medical field is constantly growing, and new medical terms appear.

A medical dictionary should contain reliable information. The definitions should also be easy to understand and comprehensive. And to save you time and energy, it should be easy to use: finding the needed information within a few seconds is possible.

Ideally, a good medical dictionary should contain nearly all existing medical terms so that you don’t have to use more than one.

We have compiled a list of the 5 best medical dictionaries that fulfill all these criteria. All of them are excellent, and which one you decide to use depends on personal preferences. 

Three types of medical dictionaries

Before listing the 5 best medical dictionaries, you should be aware that there are different kinds of dictionaries. 

1. Online dictionaries

In the modern world, we can look up almost everything online. That’s also the case for medical terms. But rather than simply Googling a term, it is recommended to use an online medical dictionary. This way, you will get more reliable and consistent information. An advantage of online dictionaries is that they are constantly updated, and you will find brand new medical terms there.

2. Medical dictionary apps

An app works similarly to an online dictionary. But by using an app, you don’t have to open the browser and load the website. So it’s even more accessible, and you can quickly look something up on your phone even when you are on the road. Also, apps are regularly updated.

3. Medical dictionary books

The last option is old-fashioned medical dictionary books. While they may seem unnecessary in today’s world, they also have advantages. First, you don’t have to be online to use them; they are handy when sitting in the library without having your computer. Another good, valid reason is that you simply like books. And if a printed book seems too antique, you can always get an ebook version.

One downside of dictionary books is that they are not as up-to-date as online ones. But reputable publishers regularly release updated editions, so outdated information is not a major issue.

Best medical dictionaries

Here is the list of the 5 best medical dictionaries:

1. OpenMD

OpenMD is a search engine that searches documents from medical journals, health organizations, and government agencies. It’s not only a medical dictionary. It provides a lot of medical information and links to further resources. 

The OpenMD medical dictionary contains 11,000 terms and 6,000 abbreviations and provides high-quality medical information from reputable resources. In addition, OpenMD collaborates with developers and medical professionals worldwide.

The search function is straightforward: You can type in the search term or browse by letter, which can be handy when unsure how to write the term. It also offers a separate search for abbreviations, word parts, an introduction to medical terminology, and an overview of other high-quality medical dictionaries.

2. Merriam-Webster’s medical dictionary book

If you are a book lover, then Merriam-Webster’s medical dictionary book is the right choice for you. It contains more than 39,000 medical terms, including their pronunciation. You can also find brand and corresponding generic names of common drugs.

This publisher has been publishing dictionaries since 1847 and works with a large team of professional dictionary writers and editors. They regularly release updated editions. The latest edition is from 2016 and contains 1,000 new, modern terms like diabesity and chemo brain.

It’s a great choice if you’re looking for a comprehensive and up-to-date offline dictionary.

There is even a free Kindle version, but the printed version is also very affordable.

They also have an online dictionary if you become a Merriam-Webster fan and are looking for an online solution.

3. The free dictionary by Farlex

The free dictionary by Farlex is another excellent option for an online medical dictionary.

It contains over 45,000 entries from all areas of medicine and healthcare. It provides authoritative descriptions of medical conditions, anatomical terms, medications, medical abbreviations, tests, and much more.

The free dictionary by Farlex is also available as an app.

4. MedlinePlus – Official information from the National Institutes of Health (NIH)

MedlinePlus belongs to the National Library of Medicine (NLM), the world’s most extensive medical library.

The MedlinePlus medical dictionary contains over 4,000 entries about diseases, symptoms, tests, surgeries, and injuries, even with medical photographs and illustrations.

The dictionary provides short definitions and comprehensive information with links to further resources.

5. Tabers

Tabers is one of the few online medical dictionaries that are not free. But you get a lot of value for your money: More than 75,000 definitions, 33,700 audio pronunciations, 1,300 images, and 130 videos. So if you want to try it: a few definitions are freely available, but to access all of them, you need a paid subscription.

Tabers also has an app. There is a free version with sample content, but a purchase is required to access all content.

The bottom line

There are almost countless medical dictionaries. We found the 5 best medical dictionaries for you, providing high-quality information from reputable sources. Which of these 5 is the best one for you depends on personal preferences.